How to Save Attorney Fees and Costs and Obtain the Most out Of Your Legal Representation in Divorce and Other Family Law Cases
Whether you hire Bishop Law Office or another firm, here are some tips on saving fees and getting the most out of your representation.
First and foremost, a good attorney-client relationship is a partnership. The client expects the attorney to provide top notch legal services. The attorney expects the client to be honest and to provide ongoing and updated relevant information and documents. We provide all drafts of correspondence and Court documents to our clients before we file or send them to ensure that they are accurate and consistent with our clients’ positions. The attorney and client should be calculating the best game plan together during all aspects of the case.
How to Limit Your Fees and Increase the Opportunity for Best Results
- Similar to most other family law firms, our firm bills its clients based upon the time involved in the case. Thus, whatever you can do as part of our partnership that limits our time the better.
- We have found that the more information that you provide early on equals less attorney and paralegal time necessary to “put your case together”. It will generally be more expensive if you “piece meal” the information to the attorney or paralegal.
- Be honest up front. This keeps us from going down the wrong path. If you have skeletons, we can usually work with them. The worse thing is to spend a lot of money and then have your attorney surprised with significant facts he/she did not know about.
- Because of family law rules (such as Arizona being a no-fault state) not all the information you want to provide us will be relevant to what the Court ultimately decides. However, unless you are an attorney, you may not know the distinction between what is relevant and what is not. During your initial consultation you will be providing us with certain information that is necessary to determine how your case proceeds. However, the initial consultation is usually limited in nature and does not address every fact that may be relevant. Although your attorney will be asking for follow up information, you should also take the time to make sure the attorney is aware of all the facts that you feel may be relevant to your case as well. It can be very helpful if you write down a chronology of everything that you think is relevant in your case by category (i.e. parenting issues, financial issues, etc.). It is less expensive if you provide us with everything that you think is important early in your case as opposed to providing the attorney with snippets of information as you go along. If you provide us with information regarding past events it is helpful to include approximately dates of the events when applicable. Some clients will do this in just a few pages, while others may send us a chronology that exceeds fifty pages. Providing us with such information in writing early on will save time and money and at the same time confirm that we have all the information that you feel we may need. We will then follow up with you regarding any questions that we may have after reviewing your chronology.
- Consider emailing your questions or relevant information as opposed to calling the attorney and trying to convey the information by telephone. If you call the office every time that you want to talk to the attorney, the attorney may feel that he/she must review your file to properly respond to your inquiries. If you email your questions, the attorney may be able to respond to you without reviewing your file, or at the very least will be more prepared if the attorney needs to speak with you in person.
- Promptly respond to requests for information and documentation from the attorney or paralegal. This will save the time involved with following up with you or attempting to figure out the missing information and documentation.
- You will be asked for documents as your case proceeds. In divorce cases this includes documents regarding all assets and debts. This includes copies of all financial account statements and credit card statements from six months prior to filing to the present. You will also need to provide your ongoing paystubs and other income information. We will need your last three years personal tax returns as well as your last three years business returns (if you have ownership interests in your business). You may not always have the documents in your possession. If you do not have the documents in your possession, think through what it will take to obtain the documents. It may be as easy as calling the credit card company or driving to the bank and asking for copies of your statements. This is much less expensive that having the firm subpoena your documents or having to identify and follow up with you regarding the missing documents.
- Similarly, it will be much more efficient if you read correspondence from the attorney and paralegal very carefully and respond to every request. Again, if you piecemeal the information to us, we are required to spend additional time to identify what is missing and then must follow up with you.
- Judges frown on a party that does not respond to requests for information and documents from the other party. Sometimes a party feels like it is in their best interests to only provide the documents that support his/her case and to withhold documents that he/she does not want the other party to see. Sometimes a party feels like they should not provide requested documents until the other party does so. This is a big mistake. First, we must take the time to identify what is missing and follow up with you. At the same time, the other side will likely be spending their time identifying what is missing and will likely send demand letters for the missing information. Thus, you will not only be spending more attorney fees on your side but may be exposed to paying the other side’s attorney fees if you are not diligent or thorough in providing documents and information requested.
- Ask your attorney to highlight the most relevant issues in your case and what will be necessary to prove the facts that are in dispute. This will help you identify with the attorney what evidence will be most persuasive. This may be accomplished through your testimony, the testimony of witnesses, or through documents. Sometimes a party in a case is unable to present certain facts or claims in a case because the documents or claims were not provided to the other side prior to the disclosure deadlines set forth by the judge. Many attorneys seem to be reactive and not proactive. We take pride to make sure that this does not happen in our cases.
What You Should Expect from Your Attorney
- You should expect a return call, message or email regarding your communications within twenty-four hours (excluding weekends). If the attorney is committed to other matters, one of our office assistants should reach out to you regarding when the attorney is available for a telephone call or when you can expect a response to your inquiry.
- You should expect the attorney to be fully prepared for any hearing or trial. If this is an evidentiary hearing or trial, the attorney should provide you with an outline of the “direct examination” questions that the attorney anticipates asking you and the outline of the “cross examination” questions that the attorney asks the opposing party. The attorney should also provide outlines of any questions that the attorney anticipates asking any third-party witnesses that have been disclosed.
- Any legal documents that the attorney files on your behalf should be provided to you at least 24 hours in advance for your review. You should be provided the opportunity to make appropriate changes to the documents and/or ask any questions regarding the documents. You should be asked to confirm the accuracy of the documents before they are filed. This applies to legal documents that set forth factual statements on your behalf. There are some documents that will not require your review as they are merely procedural.
- You should expect your attorney to act professionally with you always (even when you are frustrated with the opposing party or the judicial system).
- You should expect your attorney to be proactive in resolving your case.
Our Requests for a Productive and Efficient Attorney-Client Relationship
- Please do your best to respond to any information or document requests at your earliest opportunity. This will help your case move along more quickly, more efficiently, and at a lower cost.
- Please be honest with your attorney always – even if you think it will hurt your case.
- Family law cases can be very emotional and can move at a slower pace that you would like. Although we can do our best to file Court documents as soon as possible, the Court calendars are often very busy, and the attorney cannot always accomplish things at the pace you would like. We did not create the judicial system; however, we do need to work within its requirements and parameters. Thus, we request that you do your best to articulate any frustrations in a professional manner. If you have any frustrations with your attorney specifically, we invite you to contact our office manager Carolyn who will follow up with our managing partner.
- We will provide you with periodic questionnaires regarding how well your attorney and staff are doing on your behalf. We appreciate both positive feedback as well as any concerns that you may have. We make it a top priority to gain your trust and to provide you with the best legal representation and customer service possible.
Thank you for considering Bishop Law Office regarding your family law needs.